Porgy with a Provence potato, tomato and olive stew

Fish are jumpin'

Porgy is a very common fish in Europe, also called sea bream in UK English, orata in Italy, and dorade, dorado or dorada in France, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Russia... In fact, all those latter names refer to the presence of gold (oro in Italian and Spanish) reflects on the head of one of the fish varieties, the gilt head bream. The gilt head bream is generally bigger than the other varieties of breams, the black sea bream, the most common one, or the red seabream which is... pink! It is named dorade in French, but in case you have to order or buy one in a restaurant or at a fishmonger in France, there are some subtleties, and "subtitles" to know: the black sea bream is called dorade grise, the red sea bream dorade rose, and the gilt head bream dorade royale or simply daurade (note the different spelling). Also, beware of a possibly confusing, but delicious, fish named the dorade coryphène, which is not at all a bream, but the iconic mahi mahi.


I found recently this porgy at a fish market, and honestly, this should be, as far as I remember, the first time I have seen one in the US  for more than a decade. When I first arrived in the US, I thought the snapper was a dorade. However, I realized they were not the same fish, although they have many things in common, their size, their shape (the snapper having a slightly thinner profile), the way to cook them (BBQ-grilled or oven-roasted), their taste... although as far as I am concerned, I think that porgy has a more delicate taste than snapper... And here is my point. I got this porgy for $5/lb. (whole fish) in a rather expensive grocery store, with no promotion, while the snapper should be around $12/15/lb. As a comparison and whereas fish prices are generally cheaper in France than in the US, this is the price standard dorade (farmed black sea bream) is sold in France. Porgy is clearly an underrated fish and a more than excellent deal, which wouldn't be a problem for me except that it is also a rare fish... on the fishmongers stalls, and on the stalls only as the species is very abundant and not threatened at all! Yes, those fish are jumpin'... like in this musical named... Porgy and Bess! No kiddin'!

I prepare this porgy à la provençale and served it, to stay in tune, with a fricot provençal. Fricot is another word for stew in French, and the fricot provençal designates specifically a potato, tomato and olive stew flavored and cooked with herbs and olive oil.

Ingredients (2 servings)

For the  fricot:
  • 8 fingerling potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled (keep the peels for the porgy)
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly chopped
  • a dozen of olives, different color, roughly crushed*
  • 6 cloves of garlic in their skin
  • 1/2 lemon diced
  • 1/2 glass of dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1 stem of rosemary, 1 tbsp. of fennel seeds, thyme
  • salt, piment d'Espelette
  • flat parsley
* the recipe calls for olives vertes cassées (broken green olives). Thus, I just "broke" them, but this was just to "pretend": the term olives cassées refers in fact to a way to prepare green olives in Provence, where those are roughly crushed and macerate in water for 2 or 3 weeks, the water being renewed every day till the olives lose their astringency. Of course, alas! I didn't have broken olives...
For the porgy:
  • 1 whole porgy, gutted, scaled
  • 6 stems of fresh rosemary, thyme, bay leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, de-germed, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, diced
  • a few olives
  • a couple of green onions
  • tomato peels from the fricot tomatoes
  • alt, piment d'Espelette
  • 1 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1/2 glass of dry white wine


For the  fricot:
  • Put the olive oil, the rosemary, thyme and fennel seed in a cast iron pot, and heat up till the oil starts to fizzle, then lower the temperature and let infuse a couple of minutes
  • Add the chopped onion and cook it till translucent, but not colored
  • Add the tomato till they start to render water,
  • Add the wine and let evaporate the alcohol for a 1 or 2 minutes
  • Add the chopped potatoes, the olives, the garlic, the lemon and the piment
  • Reduce the temperature to low medium, and let simmer, lid on for around 30/40 minutes or till the potatoes are cooked, but sill firm
  • Adjust the seasoning, including the salt only added at the end because of the olives
For the porgy:
  • Make a bed of rosemary in the bottom of an oven dish and spread the olive oil on it
  • Stuff the fish with a rosemary stem and the tapenade
  • Season the fish on each side (salt, very moderately because of the tapenade and the olive, and piment)
  • Put the garlic cloves, the lemon segments, the chopped green onion, the tomato peels, the olives, the bay leaves around and on the fish
  • Pour the white wine around the fish
  • Cook in a 375 F preheated oven for around 20 minutes and let it rest for around 5 minutes (check if done with a knife)
  • Remove (or not) the skin and fillet the fish, without forgetting the cheeks and the tapenade stuffing
  • Serve the fish fillets with the fricot and the roasted whole garlic cloves, the olives and the fish juice   


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